Sunday, November 18, 2007

Book Review: "Faiths of the Founding Fathers"


The Founding Fathers and religion has been a very hot issue in recent years. In his book "Faiths of the Founding Fathers" David Holmes helps to resurrect the key elements that made colonial religion distinct from modern practices. Holmes effectively demonstrates the role and importance of the Enlightenment and Deism during the 18th century. Along with recreating the religious atmosphere of the 18th century, Holmes also gives a detailed analysis of several Founding Fathers and their personal beliefs of God, religion, heaven, hell, etc.

This is a wonderful book! Most of the books that talk about religion and our Founding Fathers carry a strong bias with them. There is almost always an agenda to their approach. Holmes, however, does not try to portray the Founding Fathers as zealous Christians or as Atheists. Instead he focuses on the facts using a large amount of primary sources to back them up.

The main thesis that Holmes tries to get across is that colonial religious ideology was very different than it is in our modern times. Holmes makes it clear that the Founding Fathers had different concepts of Christianity than exist today. Holmes sums up the Founding Fathers by calling them "Theistic Rationalists", meaning that many of them embraced religious ideologies, but rarely gave allegiance to a particular sect. Of course Holmes mentions the few founders (like Patrick Henry) that were strongly devoted to a particular church, but he suggests that this was the exception to the rule.

I would recommend "Faiths of the Founding Fathers" to anyone that is interested in the religious aspects of 18th century colonial America, or interested in the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers.

Overall, this book gets an A- (The minus is because he could have gone into more detail).

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